Patch management is the process of tracking and deploying software updates throughout an organization. Patches could add new features, fix software bugs, and most importantly, fix known vulnerabilities that have been discovered in the software. This makes patch management a vital part of any cybersecurity program.
Unfortunately, there are several challenges to managing patches:
- Overwhelming number of patches – It can be a daunting task to monitor multiple vendors for a constant stream of software updates, evaluate the patches to determine applicability, apply the patches, and verify successful remediation.
- Patches have side effects – New patches should be tested before deployment to ensure the update does not conflict with other software, introduce new vulnerabilities, or affect functionality.
- Patches can require downtime – Critical services on a server may need to be stopped, or a system may need to be rebooted to install the patch, impacting system availability and service level agreements.
- Audit requirements – While important for proper change control and auditing, it can be very time-consuming to document patch requests, approvals and verification.